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Hope in the Book

Hope in the Book

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It’s hard to overstate the impact that a low-key 30-page evangelistic Scripture portion has on the nations where Assemblies of God evangelist J. Mikel French has shared the gospel with hundreds of thousands of people in stadiums and churches worldwide for more than half a century.

Since the early 1990s, French, 72, has traveled the globe proclaiming the good news. While he’s conducted evangelism outreaches in France, Germany, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malawi, the Philippines, Taiwan, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, and Thailand, the impact of his ministry is especially felt in former Communist countries, including Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine.

His focus has been lands that made up the former Soviet Union. His ministry has assisted distribution of four million copies of the Book of Hope to students in Russia alone.

“I’ve been to the nations of the former U.S.S.R. 132 times,” French says.

As a young evangelist from Okmulgee, Oklahoma, French preached a weekend revival at Christian Celebration Center, an AG church in Midland, Michigan. Within five weeks, hundreds came to faith in Christ and were filled with the Holy Spirit, marking French’s launch into evangelistic ministry. He felt the call to preach at age 5 at the AG church his father, Bob French, pastored in Belleville, Michigan. While studying at Middle Tennessee State University, at an AG youth conference, he surrendered his life to Christ and accepted His preaching call.

Then in the late 1980s, while preaching revivals in Antioch, California, French met AG youth pastor Rob Hoskins and his father, missionary Bob Hopkins. The latter developed the Book of Hope, a harmony of the Gospels that includes Acts chapters one and two. The end of the illustration-free booklet contained 100 questions leading back to specific Bible verses.

Hoskins created the Scripture portion in Spanish in 1987 at the request of El Salvador’s minister of education as a guide for children and teens to understand Christianity. He found the Book of Hope ideal for distribution in schools. Soon, however, many sensed its value as a tool for mass evangelism beyond that Central American country, in part because of its minimal production cost.

When Rob Hoskins asked French in 1992 to preach at an evangelism celebration in Irkutsk, Siberia, French took the Book of Hope with him. He discovered something unusual after entering schools in the North Asian region of Russia.

“They’d never seen or met an American,” French says. “When an American put the book in their hands, it was like a gift from America.”

OneHope, the umbrella ministry that produces the book, now has reached two billion young people with God’s Word, most of them through the printed Book of Hope. The Scripture portion has been translated into 148 languages and distributed in 112 countries.

“I’ve never worked with a greater evangelistic tool than Book of Hope,” French says.

Today, French is based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and continues his travels both in the United States and internationally. Contracting COVID-19 in March 2020, evidently while speaking in a Brussels seminary, brought him to the brink of death. Recovery from the coronavirus took nearly four months, including weeks in a hospital critical care unit.

In 2023, he’s in a different country each month, plus engagements across the U.S. “God keeps opening doors,” he says. His goals remain unchanged.

“Our purpose is to bring people to the kingdom of God and then bring the kingdom of God into them,” French says. “When people come together and allow the Holy Spirit to flow, people will be saved and healed, unlocking the heart of missions.”

Oklahoma Assemblies of God Superintendent Darryl Wootton formerly served as youth pastor to the son of French and his wife, Marsha. Jonathan French now works with Convoy of Hope.

“Mikel and Marsha define faithfulness to the calling of evangelist,” Wootton says. “Few people have the impact around the world that God has enabled the Frenches to experience.”

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